Dreams of Middle-Earth (Quendi 1st)
Here are the last two works to be published from the 1st round of the Quendi category, The Lonely Rider by Eimeria and The Dwarven City of Edinburgh by Nuzarkhem. The description of the task itself and two other solutions could be find in previous posts: click here for the untitled short story by Mirwa, and here for the Black wood by Mirach.
The Lonely Rider
I used to spend my summer vacations in a place called the Kiskunság with my friends. Now that we have „grown up”, we still return there more and more every year.
The place itself has its own magic: waste plains with grassy shallow mounds reaching the horizont. If you wake up early, you can see the first rays of the Sun, emerging from the mist, red like blood. You can lay down on the middle of nowhere on the grass, listening to the insects buzzling all around and the birds singing. There are small villages and farms in the neighbourhood, but you seldom hear the sound of cars or trains. It’s a land of peace.
The place has its own legends. Some of them are created by the inhabitant campers, like the story of the Bone Squirrel, a creature that terrorizes the small children if they are too noisy. Also we know lots of true stories from the past about farmers defending their homes and family from the enemy soldiers during the 2nd world war, or the sotry of the Kondor lake, which is now but a dry lake bed. And there are new stories every year, stories about findig the first love or the legend of the beheaded deer.
This summer was far less dry than the previous ones. We barely beleived to our eyes when we arrived. As far as the eye can see everything was of a rich green colour, the grass wawing in the wind like an emerald sea.
As usual, we decided with my friend to wake up early in the morning to take photos. She is maybe remembered amongst the old stories: one of her names was Galenerca. She was the one who introduced me the world of Tolkien.
So we woke up when the weather was still chilly and the dew settled on the herbs like small gems glinting int he sunlight. We headed to the mounds in with the hope of catching a few deers, foxes or birds.
Unfortunately the animals were faster than us, we could barely make a handful of photos. We arrived to the Breakfast Hill (the small hillock where we usually have breakfast when we go on excursions) tired and sleepy. We decided to have a rest. We layed down under the the shadow of the single tree of the hilltop and fell asleep within a few minutes.
When I woke up, the shadow moved away from where we slept. It must have been approximately noon: the Sun was shining strongly and I felt that my mouth had dried out. Further away a lonely rider rode its white horse. That was nothing special, the land is well known for its ranches, and nearly every farmer has at least one horse. The strange thing was that the wind brought to me the sound of a horn.
The rider semmed to notice us, he turned his horse in our direction and started off in a comfortable trot. As he came nearer, I realised he was not just some tourist. He wore strange clothes, mostly green and white. He had boots, a helm and a haubring, with a sword and a shield on his side, though I could not see the motif painted ont he shield.
He was tall, with sea-blue eyes, his bright golden hair flowing out of his helmet.
My first idea was that he is just another senior of those summer camps with the traditions of the camp of Bánk – a role playing game camp. I knew these sorts of camps, being myself a senior of an imaginary royalty ont he North of the country. But I did not know that there would be a similar camp in our neigbourhood, here in the Kiskunság. Anyway, the rider still semmed strange to me: his armours were way too real for a role playing game camp. His sword was without doubt a fine work, made out of steel, the scabbard decorated with golden horse motifs.
And if the presence of a fully armored knight in the middle of the green plains would not have been shocking, the rider started to sing:
“Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the harp on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?”*
I have to admit that I was totally shocked, I could not move nor speak, as if some dark magic had paralyzed me. The rider still stared at me for a few seconds, then made a half turn and rode away. As he turned, I had a glimpse of his shield: a white horse on a green background. He rode far away toward the horizon.
Only when he totally disappeared did I realize that I was extremely thirsty. After a few sip of water I already felt better. Galenerca was just waking up beside me. ’Well, now it seems that the hot summer of the Kiskunság has arrived. Are you all right? You seem to be a bit… red. I think you got sunburnt’ she said.
’Yes, I think so.’ I replied ’And it seems to me that I saw a mirage. It was like a rider of Rohan had visited us. I think returning to the camp and having a cold shower would be a good idea.’
’A rider of Rohan? Cool. But you are right, let’s return to the camp.’
So we walked home, trying to stay under the shadow of the trees as well as we could, while the experience of the mirage was slowly fading into a memory.
If it was really a mirage...
*(Quote: J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers)
The Dwarven City of Edinburgh
And there I saw it, the mighty Àrd-na-Said, or “Height of Arrows” as they called it in the long gone past. That Mountain was now standing before my eyes, no longer just a scribble on a map. It was there, shining in the autumn light, bright and fiery, lit by the last rays of sunset. It was much like Erebor, I thought – standing lonely in the midst of flat land, surrounded by the city, in Dùn Èideann.
Edinburgh is a city that screams of Middle-Earth. It is not just the Mountain and the Scottish people that are, obviously, Dwarves in disguise. There, looking towards the south, you can see the range of Pentland Hills, which are reminiscent of the Misty Mountains. And, rising higher above everything else is the Castle, which brings to mind the mighty cities of Men. Looking at the walls of the fortress, you can almost feel the battles that were fought here: hear the distant clashing of swords and shields, see the rain of arrows, feel the taste of war and death – who am I to say that the Battle of Pelennor Fields was fought anywhere else than here?
I was waiting for nightfall to start my journey up the slope of the Mountain. In the midst of day there are too many people, but at midnight you can expect nothing but silence. And once the sun had set far below the horizon, I started climbing the steep stone stairs, leading me towards the summit.
The city lights were glowing, carrying their yellow streams into the darkening sky, in the style of Van Gogh. The towering Castle was looking into the stars that had just appeared from the twilight, high above the clouds. The city of Edinburgh was shining; shining like the never-dying Elven lights of Rivendell.
It was past midnight by the time I had reached the peak of the Mountain. The crescent moon was shining through the skies and cast a faint light upon the grassy surface - the Lion’s Mane as some creative minds had named it, for the Mountain looked exactly like a lion, looking from a certain angle. It was dark, pleasant and silent. An utter silence of such proportions, that you could almost hear the Lion breathing. Yet I was not alone – life was scrambling around in all directions – rabbits, birds and foxes running around, and winds howling above the slopes.
I saw the stars – lucky night today – crystal clear skies. The stars were both faint and bright, as if they were the ships of Eärendil. I lied down on the grass, facing upwards, and slowly fell asleep, mesmerized by the greatness of the night, singing and dreaming above my closed eyes.
And then, in dreaming, the music became louder. It was no longer just a whisper in the wind. I heard clear music and songs, echoing across the stone halls of the Dwarves. The sound was firm and I heard it and I felt it:
Buried deep inside the mountain
Long forgotten, long been lost,
Deep below the golden fountains
Relic of the past, a ghost.
Will you ever find its hiding,
Tangled in the Halls of Stone,
Will you ever see it shining,
Will you touch the Arkenstone?
And with the last word I opened my eyes and I saw it shining bright above me – white silvery rays of stellar light. It was bright like the sun, a jewel from the ground, now dancing in the sky - the Arkenstone. I stretched my hand to touch it, but it went through it. I could not grasp it. Once my eyes adjusted to that light, I saw a crescent shape. I then realized: it was the moon. While I was asleep, it moved towards the zenith above my head. What a curious coincidence.
I slowly got up from the grass – already I could see the hints of dawn. I had to get back home, yet I could not help but wonder how that dream came to be – the Mountain is full of mysteries.
Climbing back down, I recalled all the tales and legends about it. Yes, the hidden healing springs, the ghosts of King Arthur and his warriors, who perished here and were buried during the times of great battles… There are many of those stories. And I have no reason to believe that they can’t be true, knowing that this place is indistinguishable from Middle-Earth. Is that Mountain still alive; are there dragons, are there dwarves?
The Mountain, which people nowadays call Arthur’s Seat, is an old volcano, which, in its time was spewing forth fire and smoke. The greatness of the Dwarven art of forging is certainly undeniable – perhaps that fire and smoke was a sign that there were flaming furnaces beneath the Mountain. Perhaps Dùn Èideann is a righteous city of the Dwarves, or perhaps those were the flames of a Dragon. In any case there could be golden halls hiding in there. And, of course, the Arkenstone, waiting to be found, “Tangled in the Halls of Stone”.
A party is what I need, a thorough search for the hidden door. It is there on the Mountain somewhere, I am certain, hiding in the midst of the city of Edinburgh. Come and join me, for even though we might not find it, still we shall be blessed, for we had been in the Realm of Dwarves.